Mesmerizing Central Valleys And Plains

Day 01 –  Arrive Paro; travel to Thimphu and sightseeing in Thimphu (55 km / approx 1 ½ hours )

On your flight to Paro, you will experience breathtaking views of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake in Bhutan.

On arriving Paro International Airport and after you have completed immigration and customs formalities, you will be welcomed by our tour representative and drive you to Thimphu.

The drive from Paro will take you along the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu. Next we turn upstream and travel along the Wang Chu to Thimphu, the new capital city of Bhutan.

Afternoon, visit the Memorial Chorten, with its golden spires shining in the sun, its tinkling bells and an endless procession of elderly people circling around it. Built by the royal grandmother Ashi Phutsho Chodoen in memory of her son, the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, it contains a fine collection of Buddhist statues and is a center of tantric Buddhism in all its complexity.

As evening falls, we will visit Trashichho Dzong, the beautiful medieval fortress /monastery is Bhutan’s administrative and religious centre which houses most of the Government’s office and the King’s Throne Room. It is also the summer residence of Je – Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. The National Assembly hall is located in a new building across the river.

Evening, enjoy a walk up and down the high street lined with little shops of all descriptions. There is always a colorful gathering passing from ubiquitous monk bodies to Bhutanese businessmen, to nomadic farmers that come to trade supplies.

Overnight stay at hotel (B,L,D)

Day 02-  Hike to Cheri Monastery and Sightseeing in Thimphu

After breakfast, drive to the base camp of Cheri Monastery and then take a 45mintues hike to the monastery. Cheri Monastery was founded by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 17th century unifier of the Bhutanese nation state. Initially coming from Tibet, Shabdrung moved to Bhutan and promoted a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity from the dominant Tibetan culture. He established Cheri Monastery at the end of Thimpu Valley in 1620. Cheri, also known as Chagry Dorjeden, had been a sacred place ever since Guru Rinpoche visited it in the 8th century. Shabdrung added to its sacredness, and nowadays, it is a prominent teaching centre of the Drukpa Kagyu order. Like many monasteries, Cheri offers ample opportunities for people to go into retreat, and even in the 20th century, a new meditation centre was opened. Shabdrung himself spent three years in retreat, and later, regularly used it as a residence.

Later, visit the Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress like temple perched on a ridge

above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who came from Tibet and is dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist emanation of compassion. The central statue here is Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) in a manifestation with 11 heads. From the courtyard of the temple, there is fascinating view of the Thimphu valley.

Next, visit the Weekend Market where the locals come to do their weekly shopping. This will be one of the highlights of your trip as you observe the Bhutanese people’s culture and life styles.  Later, we will make a stop at the Centenary Park where the walking Buddha resides; the entire statue was built by Thai workers who specifically came to Bhutan to build the statue. It stands at 45 feet tall.

Overnight stay a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 03-  Excursion in Thimphu

After breakfast, visit the Folk Heritage Museum, founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. The museum is dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through an exhibition of items and artifacts used in rural households, demonstrating customs, traditions, habits and skills. The principal exhibit is the museum building itself which is a restored three-storey traditional rammed mud and timber house. It contains household objects, typical domestic tools, and equipment used by a rural family.

Then, visit the Institute of Zorig Chusum (Painting School) where the 13 traditional arts and crafts are still kept alive. Students here receive training for six years on thangka painting, slate curving, tailoring, stone carving, embroidery, etc. Upon completion of the training, they either find employment in the government or the private sector and some even start their own arts and crafts business.

Next, visit Textile Museum which serves as the living art of Bhutanese weaving culture at display. The products mostly come from Lhuentse, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family.

Handmade paper is one of Bhutan’s 13 arts and crafts. It will be interesting to see how it is being made from inner pulp of daphne and edgeworthia plants. Paper products are mainly used for printing Buddhist Holy Scriptures and souvenirs. Some are exported to international markets such as North America, Asia and Europe.

Visit Bhutan Post to see the various collections of Bhutanese stamps. Then, drive to the Buddha Point (Kuenselphodrang), where the tallest Buddha statue, 160 ft is under construction. Enjoy the view of southern Thimphu valley.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 04-  Travel to Punakha (71 km / approx 2½ hours).

After breakfast, we start our journey into the countryside towards the Punakha valley- the old  capital of Bhutan. The drive ascends gradually to the Dochula pass over 10300 ft, with magnificent vistas of the Himalayan range.

The Dochula Monastery also known as the Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens is a tribute to the service and leadership of His Majesty the king. The design inspired by the Queen is a unique cluster of 108 Chortens seen from all directions. The descent to Punakha is vibrant and colorful, with the fluttering prayer flags adding to a rich topography dotted by terrace farming and rivers flowing through.

We will visit the historic Punakha Dzong sprawled at the confluence of the Phochu (male) and Mochu (female) rivers. Built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang, in terms of architecture, it is believed to be a master piece. The crowning of the first king of Bhutan in 1907 and the royal weddings of Bhutan’s fourth and fifth kings were held at the fortress.

A glacial lake outburst in the north of Punakha in 1994 heavily destroyed some parts of the structure, but it is being rebuilt to its original shape.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 05-  Sightseeing in Punakha

After early breakfast, drive for 15 minutes to the road point to Khamsum Yuellay Namgyal Chorten for a 35-45 minutes hike. mgyal Chorten (stupa) built by the Queen Mother of the Fifth Kingto bring peace and harmony for Bhutan and the world.

Thereafter, enjoy River Rafting on Mochu, the female river of Punakha for one and half hours. The river bank is scenic with secluded blue water, alpine scenery, sighting of rarest birds, amazing rapids on the backdrop of striking 17th Century Punakha Dzong.

Afternoon, take a hike to Chimi Lhakhang (“Temple of Fertility”). The temple was built by a cousin of Lama Drukpa Kuenlay, the Divine Madman who was generally known for his eccentric behavior. Walk would take an hour to and from the road point.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 6- Travel to Phobjikha (75 km/ 3 ½ hours)

We will be passing through the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, which served as the seat of south-central power in the past. Wangdue Dzong has been gutted by fire on 24 October 2012 and plan is afoot to rebuild it in its original shape. The road towards Phobjikha would wind gently towards Pele La Pass (11,152ft).

Before reaching the Pele La Pass, we will take a right turn through the alpine forest, rich in rhododendrons and magnolia in full blossoms during April/May and dwarf bamboo before arriving to the glacial valley of Phobjikha/Gangtey. The place is known for the harmonic existence between the Black Necked Crane and the local communities.

The area is the biggest and widest glacial valley in Bhutan and one of the wintering habitats for the endangered Black Necked Cranes that come to roost from the central Asiatic Plateau from October to February annually. People of the area revere the birds and do not disturb them. Even there is a song dedicated to the birds.

Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) has an information centre located at the area. They provide the local people with some conservation funds. RSPN and local people hold annual crane festival in November, observed by local and international guests. Phobjikha valley provides a good venue for day hikes.

Gangtey Monastery, the only Nyingmapa Monastery in Bhutan is located in the Valley. It is headed by the ninth reincarnate, His Holiness, Gangtey Trulku. Termites affected the wooden structures of the monastery and a major renovation was done to bring back the monastery to its original structure.

Make a visit to a farm house and interact with the locals in the evening.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 7- Travel to Trongsa (79 km, 3 ½ hours)

After our breakfast, we start our journey to Trongsa. The road towards Trongsa would wind gently towards Pele La Pass (11,152ft). The Pass served as the dividing border between western and eastern Bhutan in olden days. From here, we can view the snow-clad peaks before the road descends via Chedebji Chorten (Stupa) patterned after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu, Nepal. We will pass through the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, very rich in forest cover.  In the afternoon, visit the Trongsa Dzong and the Ta Dzong (watch tower)

Trongsa Dzong, lies on a ridge overlooking the Mangdechhu. It is considered one of the best architectural structures in Bhutan. It contains beautiful passages, courtyards, and corridors containing temples. It houses the district administration and serves as the winter residence for the Bumthang central monastic body. Kings of Bhutan, before they are crowned as the king, take the rank of the governor (Penlop) of Trongsa. Trongsa played a strategic place in the unification of eastern and central Bhutan in olden times.

Tadzong served as the watch tower for the Trongsa Dzong, but now it is being converted into a museum and houses armor and weapons that were captured from enemies during wars.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8-              Travel to Bumthang (65 km- 3 hours)

After breakfast, we start our journey to Bumthang. The road ascends up to the Yotong La Pass (11,234ft) and then descends into Chumey valley, the first of four Bumthang valleys. Other valleys are Tang, Ura, and Chokor.  In Chumey, we will visit Yathra (local wool) weaving center, where the local women weave woolen products that the district is popularly known with. We will continue our journey to Jakar, the capital of the district.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9-   Sightseeing in Bumthang

Today, we will visit the famous temples of Jampa Lhakhang (one of the two oldest monasteries in Bhutan), Kurji Lhakhang, Tamshing, Jakar Dzong and Bathpalathang, where local produce brandy, honey and cheese are for sale.

In the afternoon, visit the Tang Mebartsho, popularly known as the Burning Lake. It is here, the 14th century saint, Pema Lingpa took out the hidden treasures from the lake. It is a popular tourist site.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10 –  Travel to Wangduephodrang (203 km, 8 ½ hours)

After early breakfast, we start our journey to Wanguephodrang. Drive ascends out of the valleys on a twisting mountain road towards the Yotong La (11,234ft) and the road then winds down to Trongsa. Drive continues via Chendebji Chorten (Stupa), then over the Pele La Pass (11,152ft).  Then, the road descends for a few kilometers to the junction where it leads to the glacial valley of Phobjikha/Gangtey before passing through mixed forests with magnolia, rhododendrons, and hard oak trees. We might even be able to spot yellow throated martins, grey monkeys, and grey languor on the way.

Overnight stat at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 11-   Travel to Paro (113 km, 3 ½ hours)

Make an early journey to Paro. We will have lunch en route. Upon reaching Paro , visit the Paro Ta Dzong- Overlooking the Rinpung Dzong it was built in 1951 as a watch tower. Unlike the rectangular shape of the Dzongs, Ta Dzong is Round, more like parts of a European castle. From 1967 the Dzong was re-established as the National Museum and holds fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangkha, and many others. Due to renovation work at the site, the artifacts are presently housed in a separate building.

Rinpung Dzong serves as a civil administrative center and a monastic home for the monks.  Most dzongs were built in the mid- 1600s to protect the inhabited valleys from invasion by Tibet. The Paro dzong was started in 1644 on the order of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of modern day Bhutan. Unlike most other dzongs in Bhutan, it survived the massive 1897 earthquake mostly unscathed.

Overnight stay  at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 12-    Excursion to Chelela for a Picnic lunch (130 km, approximately 6 hours to/from)

After early breakfast drive to Haa Valley, located at 9000 ft. Haa was used as the trade route between western Bhutan and Chumbi Valley, Tibet in the past. It was opened to the tourist only in 2001. Cross over the Chelela Pass (11000 ft) en route. On a clear weather, we should be able to see Mt. Jumolhari, (23,989ft), the Bhutan’s highest mountain to the north. Road goes through pine forests and pasture land mainly used for grazing yaks.

On arriving Haa, visit Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) that are located close to each other. Local legend has it that deity helped construct the temple thus giving the name to Haa, meaning ‘surprise’. Haa valley is overlooked by three mountains called ‘Rig Sum Gonpa’ which signify three Buddha deities; Jambayang, Chana Dorji and Chenrizig. Afternoon, travel back to Paro.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 13-   Hike to Tiger’s Nest

After breakfast, drive around 25 minutes to Ramthangka base for a hike to view one of Bhutan’s most revered pilgrimage sites of the Buddhist world, the Taktshang Lhakhang, popularly known as the “Tiger’s Nest” Monastery. The trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched precariously on a sheer rock face 3000 ft above the valley floor. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, father of Bhutan’s stream of Mahayana Buddhism arrived in the Paro valley more than a millennium ago on the back of a tigress. He meditated for 3 months in a cave which was converted into the monastery. The only sounds heard here are the murmurs of wind, water and the chanting of monks.

We begin our hike from the base to the cafeteria which will take us at least an hour and a half. From here, it’s about an hour’s trek through some stunning landscape to reach the monastery. On our return, we stop by once more at the Cafeteria for lunch. Later, we begin our descent to Ramthangka base.

En route, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s two oldest monasteries built by the Buddhist Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century to subdue a demoness lying across the Himalayas.

Overnight stay at a hotel (B,L,D)

Day 14-   Depart Paro

After early breakfast, depart to the airport for your onward journey back home.

Thank you & Tashi Delek!